Published online 3 April 2009 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2009.236

News

World leaders fail to kick-start green economy

G20 summit a missed opportunity, say climate campaigners.

G20 leadersThe G20 failed to agree any concrete measures to boost the green economy.Associated Press

Science leaders and environmentalists are disappointed at the lack of focus on climate change and the green economy at yesterday's meeting of the Group of 20 (G20) of the world's richest nations in London.

World leaders agreed to inject US$1.1 trillion into the global economy but failed to include a commitment to spend any of this on stimulating the development of clean-energy technologies. The meeting's statement on actions to take forward leaves mention of climate change and low-carbon technologies to the final paragraphs.

David King, chief scientific adviser to the UK government from 2000 to 2007 and a vocal campaigner on the need to tackle climate change, told Nature News that world leaders had "missed an opportunity" to link the recovery of the world economy to the future sustainability of the global financial system. "I am disappointed that the issue concerning climate change and the green economy was an add on rather than integrated into the fabric of the agreement," he says.

The G20 statement says, "We agreed to make the best possible use of investment funded by fiscal stimulus programmes towards the goal of building a resilient, sustainable and green recovery. We will make the transition towards clean, innovative and resource efficient, low carbon technologies and infrastructure."

It adds that world leaders "reaffirm" their commitments to address climate change and to reach a deal at the United Nations climate-change conference in Copenhagen in December.

Afterthought

"The statement on climate change looks like an afterthought and appears to restate commitments that have already been made," agrees Martin Parry, who was co-chair of the IPCC's working group on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.

The G20 statement also falls short of the recommendations made to world leaders by Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK. Their recommendations, published on 30 March, called for the stimulus package to allocate more resources to clean energy and averting climate change.

Sterns says that the outcome of the G20 is a step towards reaching an agreement on greenhouse-gas reductions in December. "But there is a long way to travel and we need strong leadership from prime ministers and presidents all the way to Copenhagen," he adds.

"Low-carbon growth will be the only sustainable growth story and will be full of opportunity," he says. "An attempt at high-carbon growth will unravel and ultimately end in failure, and low growth is unacceptable in a world of poverty."

Meanwhile, in preparation for December's climate-change conference, the United Nations is currently holding the first in a series of three meetings in Bonn, Germany, to discuss what is likely to be included in the successor to the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change when the treaty expires in 2012. 

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